Grasslands of China and Mongolia: Spatial Extent, Land Use and Conservation
Mongolia and China host the world’s largest continuous grasslands. These grasslands are natural, while secondary, human-made grasslands are practically absent in Mongolia and of limited extent in China. The present chapter focuses on the natural grasslands and we can thus broadly follow biogeographic concepts to delimit our study area (Fig. 8.1 A). The grasslands of China and Mongolia represent the eastern part of the Palaearctic/Eurasian steppe biome (‘Central Asia’; Wesche et al., 2016), they border to Middle Asia westwards in Kazakhstan and surroundings (see Bragina et al., 2018). The major biogeographic and climatic divide along the Tian Shan-Altay mountain system separates Mongolia and China from the western steppes and also demarcates the western political borders of our focus countries. In total, Mongolia and the relevant part of China (including the Chinese Provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and the Autonomous Regions Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet) cover circa 7.9 million km² (plus 0.9 million km² in adjacent Russia, all estimated after Olson et al., 2001). Estimates differ, but grasslands in Mongolia may account for 1.0 million km² and in China for circa 2.8 million km² (Russia 0.5 million km²).